Gwynne Dyer is bang on in the Straight this week, basically arguing that Iran is not a threat, that its purpose in acquiring nucelar weaponry is basically defensive in nature, and that
the danger is not that Iran would be irresponsible with its nuclear weapons but that they would lead to a general proliferation of such weapons in the Middle East.
Now, I'm not always the biggest Chirac fan. He acts purely out of self-interest, whether its opposing the war in Iraq, or selling arms to China. Here I am sure there must be self-interest involved as well. Nevertheless, that does not change the fact that his is right.
The truth may be that Iran is for the moment seeking only a “threshold” nuclear-weapons capacity: a level of technological expertise from which it could, in an emergency, develop actual nuclear weapons in only six months or so. Such a position is entirely legal, and some 40 countries currently occupy it.
The truth may also be that the nuclear-armed neighbour Iran really worries about is not Israel but Pakistan, whose 1998 nuclear tests scared Iranian strategists half to death. They don’t worry about the intentions of Pakistan’s current dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, but they know that it is a one-bullet regime and they worry a great deal about what kind of fanatics might succeed him in power.